Friday, August 20, 2010


"I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."

Galileo Galilei

I am very comfortable at night. It is my best working time. During the day it is hard to ignore the tasks that should be dealt with, but after seven or eight in the evening there seems less that is imperative and I am more at ease sitting down at my drawing table. Perhaps that is why I am more drawn toward moths than butterflies. Most of them fly at night.

When I was young I thought I had to choose "my favorite color" or my "favorite song". Now I can say that I love all colors and don't find any of them offensive. I love yellow and I love green and I love red and blue. I have no favorite song and no favorite city....but I do have a favorite insect. Or, rather, a favorite family, the Sphingidae, commonly called hawk or sphinx moths. The first one I remember seeing in the "wild" was hovering around our lilac bush at dusk. I was sure it was a hummingbird. Then I was sure it was a huge bee.

The Sphingids have very streamlined shapes with more narrow wings and robust bodies. I have looked at all the drawers with specimens of hawk moths at the University of Michigan and marveled at the complex patterns and amazing colors. I can't imagine why they are so dressy when they fly at dusk and into the dark but I am thrilled that they exist.

In the drawing of Sphinx Moths and Star Map I chose sixteen of my favorite specimens and coupled them with my version of a 17th century Dutch star map.
I am not good at identifying constellations in the night sky and I can't keep straight all of their complicated and sometimes goofy stories, but I am immensely charmed by the early drawings and actually hopeful of remembering some of the information stored in them.

In the corners of my drawing are four phases of the moon. The new moon is replaced by a black hollyhock which is a reminder of the link between the changes in the sky and the changes in the earth.

This drawing now hangs over the Sky Cabinet.